President of the Students’ Union Government at Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, Anele Miracle, who was seen in a viral photo with bodyguards, tells DENNIS NAKU, why he chose to arm himself with security details and over 12 other aides, among other issues
When were you elected as SUG President at Rivers State University?...CONTINUE READING
My name is Anele Miracle, the President of the Students’ Union Government at Rivers State University. I am a 300-level student in the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences. I was elected on October 14, 2022, and inaugurated on January 30, 2023.
How would you describe the electioneering and outcome of the election that brought you into office as SUG leader?
So, my election was such that the students’ community got so much involved in it. Over time, the students’ community felt that the process of electing their leaders was not solely in their hands. So, for them to change the narrative, the election took a different turn, by getting a lot of them involved. The students were the ones who picked me, who took over the elections, and the campaign process. On the day of the election, they came out en masse as against the normal routine of the electioneering period. In fact, my election had a significant number of votes as against the past elections held in the institution. I won with a margin of over 1,000 votes. I had over 2,700 votes, while my opponent had 1,500 votes. The other one had 500 votes and all that. So, in the past SUG elections, the position of President was such a competitive one, that the margin one could only win with could just be 100 to 300 votes.
How did your opponents react to your emergence?
It was very evident to everybody and apparently, they knew that the students wanted me. So, without any sentiment, they had to embrace the outcome. Some of them came to me seeking to work together, and we are working together, while some of them – you know nobody likes failure – decided to go back to their shells and continue their normal lives.
Have you reached out to the disgruntled ones?
Yes, I believe that my position is just an interim one. It is just for one year, and there is life after school. So, not winning today doesn’t make them a failure. Of course, I have reached out to them and opined that they should work with me to achieve their aspirations. For them to have contested, they must have visions for the students which can be realised through my administration. So, yes, I gave them that inclusiveness.
You were seen in a viral photo recently, surrounded by armed bodyguards. Can you explain what it was all about?
They are not armed bodyguards. They are normal students. You know the position of the office of the President is accompanied by a lot of respect and dignity. So for me, I decided to add more value to the office just to make sure that the beauty of the office comes out. And they (bodyguards) are normal students, members of the Man O’ War. So, the only thing we do is just to make sure that we kit them up to look more respectable and more valued. They are just for occasions, you know. You saw me working around, and I don’t think you saw me walking with anybody or people gathered around me.
How did you hire them to work with you?
No, they are normal students and Man O’ War officials assigned to work with me.
Who assigned them to work with you?
The management. The moment you’re elected as the SUG President, you have the privilege to work with Man O’ War officers because the office is such a sensitive one. So to avoid harassment, embarrassment and all that. For me, I just added value to it by making sure I kit them up,and it looks like they’re were hired from outside. No, they were not. They are students and members of the community.
How did you kit them up?
It’s just by getting their security outfits. If you saw the pictures on the Internet, you would have seen them wearing kits for bouncers. One of them wore a suit. They are not armed at all, the management will not allow that. I’m still a student aside from the position, so why would I go about with armed security? Although, there was an occasion I was harassed sometime ago. Aside from that, I have not received any issue of harassment from any student or anybody. So, why would I arm the security (aides) working with me?
On what occasion were you harassed and where?
Oh, that was the day of the town hall meeting with a former governor, Nyesom Wike, at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre, Port Harcourt. Some cultists came up with the notion that some dollars were given to the SUG president, so they stampeded me with some other SUG presidents. Even some of our guys were stabbed and all that. So, my security aides helped me to escape the scenario and rescued some of our colleagues. So, that was the benefit of having them around me.
The kind of security aides you have suggests that your life is not safe. Are there issues of insecurity or cultism at RSU that raise concerns and bother you?
To be very frank with you, the issue of cultism and insecurity in the Rivers State Union has been addressed a long time ago before I emerged as the president. This university, some years, say five years ago or so, was noted to be a school where cult activities were recorded. But in recent times, the vice-chancellor, chief security officer and other management staff with the support of the Students’ Union Government have been able to tackle that issue. So, we cannot say that we have any issue of insecurity. The little ones that could be found daily are minor issues that are addressed by the chief security officer and with my support and my team. So I must say that there has been peace in the school.
How many security aides do you have?
They are just two as you may have seen in the picture. My chief security officer and my aide-de-camp.
How much do you pay them as aides, considering the risk involved?
No, I don’t pay them. We are all working for the students’ community. Nobody pays me; it’s community service, if you ask me. It’s a privilege for me to serve, and maybe a little allowance can come to the office of the president. They are recognised by the management of the university, but they work with me, and from time to time, they could be given incentives. But the management doesn’t pay me or anybody. It is something we pledged to do as a service to the community. So, why would they pay us for it?
Aside from the CSO and ADC, how many other aides do you have?
The SUG constitution allows me to make five appointments. The CSO, the chief press secretary, the personal assistant, the attorney general and the chief of staff. However, the president is at liberty to make other appointments. So, what I have is my social capital project committee, which comprises one person per faculty. We have 12 faculties, so I have 12 representatives that could serve as liaison officers between the SUG and faculties.
I also have my committee members for programmes; whenever I’m organising programmes, there is a directorate for programmes. Then I have the directorate for projects because there are things I want to achieve and these people help me to do the planning and execution of the projects. Aside from that, I don’t have any other. I have a head of media and communication who works under the CPS and is very important.
With your retinue, are you not concerned that other students may see your lifestyle as extravagant and a waste of levies paid by RSU students to fund the SUG?
First off, everything we do is based on transparency and accountability. The university is very much concerned about the management of the funds given to us. So, for you to be given any money, you must account for it and there should be something very convincing that you did with the money. So, we don’t have direct access to the money, the management will not allow us to take money that we are not going to use for the benefit of the students. So, I’m not living an extravagant life.
I try my best to communicate my intentions in a very light and subtle way to the management and the community. And my video or picture seen on the Internet was not funded by anybody. It is something we chose to do for ourselves. The only thing we tried to magnify was to make it look as though we hire them (security aides) or we pay them. Everybody has their style of leadership. So for me, I try to make it more presentable and more valuable.
How would you describe the relationship between the SUG and the management of the university?
Well, the Students’ Union Government cannot work independently. We are a middle body between the management and the students’ community. So for you to succeed as a body, you must make sure you have a very cordial relationship with the management and also ensure your relationship with the management doesn’t affect your constituents.
It was reported recently that some government universities increased their tuition. What is the situation at RSU?
The vice-chancellor and the management are very compassionate about the welfare of the students. So, it has not considered that (increasing the school fees) and I pray it doesn’t even think of introducing any increment because it knows that it is not favourable to us as students. So, the management has not informed me of any intention to increase the fees, and I believe it won’t have such an intention.
If that happens, how would you handle it?
If that happens, I will have to consult my colleagues.
Sometime last year, the university banned indecent dressing, a decision that sparked a protest. How did you handle the situation?
Well, you cannot outgrow the management of the institution and I believe whatever decision they are making is in the best interest of the students. You see the reason RSU is prestigious is because you are not only certified in your field of study, you’re also found worthy in character. So indecent dressing is not part of moral behaviour and we have to condemn it in its entirety. The management wants to make sure students are trained to be recognised anywhere they find themselves in the world and excel in anything they do. Yes, the issue of indecent dressing sparked a lot of reactions. Yes, the management did it because we were very deliberate about the progress of the school and the students but as time went on, we kept communicating to them (female students) that the management meant well for us. Most of them have complied and things are going on smoothly. The few deviants are being tackled accordingly.
What are the major problems affecting RSU students and what suggestions would you give to solve them?
Well, the problems we have here as students are not different from what affects every normal student out there in other higher institutions. Students are complaining about the hike in the cost of transportation and the bad economy affecting the cost of living on campus because the moment the economy is not favourable down to the grassroots, everybody feels the consequences. Another thing is that we need more infrastructure. Some of our classrooms are overcrowded because RSU is a first-choice university in Nigeria. So, we are appealing to the management and the state government to help us with infrastructure.
Of course, the Rivers State Government is doing very well, but we need more in that regard. We need more accommodation. It is affecting us. Again, we need a sports complex. We don’t have a place for sporting activities as part of our extracurricular activities. I have received a myriad of complaints from students over their dissatisfaction with the fact that there is no provisional for that….CONTINUE READING